It might be the drive between sparkling, montane Quail Springs and comforting, familiar Fresno which is the most dismal, alienating four-hour drive in all of California. A ghastly expanse of oil rigs puncture godforsaken rock and ash where once were gentle Valley Oak and wildflower savannas roamed by Tule Elk and Bear. Nameless towns of nowhere on dusty highways appear from the no man’s land of big-box fast food stops, gas stations and sketchy motels with blinking neon lights. Any sight of human habitation in the form of neighborhoods are either monolithic tracts of identical mini McMansions, or lopsided old houses supported by tarps and barbed wire appearing to huddle together for dear life (assuming the inhabitants have found strength in community, as I hope). Just to make sure I got the message, I was pulled over by flashing blue and red lights and awarded a speeding ticket for doing a modest 68 in a mysteriously unmarked 55 mph zone, according to the cop, who was just doing his job. And when I, approaching Fresno from a distance still on the lower highway 41, saw that the air was so afflicted by a heavy carpet of smog so as to veil the mountains and the sun’s full shine in a brown haze, I almost no longer believed. At the edge of despair I thought the land was lost forever, when at once, something flashing, flame-shot with gold, caught the corner of my eye. From below the signposts and still grass of the roadside there arose in chorus a great congregation of birds from the earth like a fleet of angels in resurrection. I saw their beating wings catch the morning sun and reflect, in each perfectly synchronized turn of the flock, the red haze of the marred light in a new-made shimmer as if to give unshakable glory to the life eternal which still lives in this world, even in such a time as this. I saw more flocks gather around me as my car traveled on, and they flew overhead and resided there in the air in cadence with my own pace of flight. Their shadow was so dense above me that my sight became for a moment darkened, the outline of each feathered body becoming one. When having passed over me entirely, and, leaving the wake of my movement to myself once again, they seemed to take all darkness with them. And my eyes were wider, restored with light.
A recollection from my time at Quail Springs Permaculture Farm, Autumn 2013